Wilshere has returned to full fitness following surgery this summer in the wake of a season strewn with setbacks and niggles for the England midfielder who suffered a 17-month lay-off with knee and ankle problems.
The youngster hailed as the savior of his nation’s future was giving a stern telling off from manager Arsene Wenger this morning who told reporters who broached the subject in his press conference this morning.
I must first explain that it was in fact a print journalist who brought the matter up and asked Wenger if he’d seen the photographs splashed across the back pages this morning to which the Frenchman responded:
“Well, I disagree completely with that behaviour. I need to have a chat with him about that.”
Whether or not the manager had in fact first heard of the incident, which took place in the early hours of Thursday morning as Wilshere stood outside a nightclub in London with a female companion – a photograph revealed in the son the ‘England ace’ with what the tabloid described as a ‘fag’ in his mouth - is unknown.
“There are two things. First of all, when you are a footballer you are an example, and [second], you don’t do what damages your health,” continued the boss.
“The fact is that you can damage your health at home. You can drink at home but nobody sees it. But when you do it in public, you damage your reputation as well.”
The manager was clearly unimpressed with his gifted young protégé’s antics this week but how will it affect his place in Wenger’s team? Wilshere has recently come under criticism from the English media for his recent performances for his country in which he was underwhelming but his performances for Arsenal have been relatively on par with expectations.
Earlier this season he had seemed to dip in terms of his form and focus, albeit very slightly, especially in comparison to his young Welsh counterpart Aaron Ramsey. Wilshere is, in my estimation, not yet 100 per cent match fit and this may have affected his touch, his pace, his energy and his confidence, subsequently but now, after being photographed smoking in public, could Wilshere find himself on Arsene Wenger’s bad side?
Wenger, more than any other manager in the Premier League has ever been or likely ever will be, is a stickler for health and fitness – when he arrived in 1996 he completely revolutionized the diets, lifestyles and fitness programs of his Arsenal team and before long the rest of the league was playing catch up. Now footballers are expected to be athletes, first and foremost, and, as he asserted, ‘role models’ for the next generation in terms of their behaviour, their attitude and their lifestyles.
Wilshere defended himself on Twitter, claiming: “For the record…I don’t smoke” and promptly posted a picture of Zinadine Zidane smoking. However, his Tweeting is unlikely to have the desired impact on a manager who does not tolerate much in the way of inappropriate behaviour at a club that prides itself on its squeaky-clean image.
I would expect the boss will not let it affect Wilshere’s progress and development – I think the ‘chat’ he has with him will likely suffice – especially given the injuries Arsenal have to contend with a the fixture schedule to compound them. I very much expect to see Jack Wilshere included in the manager’s line-up this weekend against West Brom, even if it is from the bench.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald